Say Goodbye to Soliai

Paul Soliai has blossomed into an elite NT, but keeping him in Miami doesn't make sense.

Free agency is approaching fast and the writing on the wall of Pro Bowl NT Paul Soliai’s locker indicates he’ll be signing a fat new contract in March – that won’t be from the Miami Dolphins.

Soliai and his agent David Canter will be looking for a multi-year deal north of $30 million.  Given the holes that need to be filled on the Dolphin roster this offseason, a contract like that is out of Miami’s price range.  Jeff Ireland has expressed interest in keeping both Soliai and DE Kendall Langford, but admitted it’s unlikely the team will be able re-sign both.  Letting Soliai walk is the right move.

Soliai deserves to be paid.  He’s 355 pound mountain who’s blossomed from a criticized, out-of-shape, 4th round draft pick to an elite, Pro Bowl caliber nose tackle.  He’s the lone bright spot of the Cam Cameron disaster, and one of the few people walking the planet that can comfortably anchor the middle of a 3-4 defense.  But, the Dolphin defense is changing.  The new regime of Joe Philbin and Kevin Coyle come from systems that run the 4-3 defense, and suddenly a nose tackle is the odd man out. Especially if that man costs an arm and a leg to keep on the roster.  Philbin has said the team will run a “hybrid” defense, using a combination of 3-4 and 4-3 fronts.  That is nothing new.  The Dolphins have used mixed fronts in the past.  The difference moving forward will likely be a tipped scale towards the 4-3, which is opposite of what’s been favored recently in Davie.  I expect less 3 man fronts as the Dolphin defense evolves.

The good news is that Miami’s defense doesn’t need a complete overhaul.  The pieces are already mostly in place for a 4-3 transition, but re-signing Kendall Langford is key. Langford and fellow 3-4 DE Jared Odrick both have the flexibility to shift inside during 4-3 looks, and outside when a 3-4 front is called.  Meanwhile, 305 pound Randy Starks can plug the nose when called upon to replace Soliai.  Once upon a time, it was Starks who was thought to be the heir apparent to NT Jason Ferguson, not Soliai.  It’s interesting that he may be called upon once again.

The linebacker corp may not need significant tweaking either.  Cameron Wake can still be a pass rusher when moved down to DE.  Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett have both played in 4-3 fronts in the past, with Burnett in the middle and Dansby weak side.   Koa Misi remains a perpetual question mark.  The former second round pick has struggled as a pass rusher his entire career.  We may soon find out how well he can drop into pass coverage in the 4-3.  It may save his job.  The missing link is the pass rusher, to-be-named, opposite Wake. This is a hole that needs to be patched regardless of the defensive scheme and will most definitely be addressed somewhere in the draft.

Given the transition, it looks to be a good time for big Paul to move on.  There’s no other year that losing an elite talent at a critical position would hurt less.  It’s beginning to look like the franchise tag placed on him last year, instead of a long and pricey contract extension, was a good call.

Topics: 3-4 Defense, 4-3 Defense, Free Agent, Joe Philbin, Kendall Langford, Kevin Coyle, Miami Dolphins, Nose Tackle, Paul Soliai

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  • ChuckCroneberger

    Dont forget Misi was a DE in college!

  • chriscce

    @Txmedic5 do u think this scenario possible? flynn or manning at FA and Coples in the 1st round of the draft

  • Cornerss

    we should tag and trade him. I dont buy another team wouldnt take his contract. nt is crucial in 3-4 and not too long ago we were thinking of spending a 1st on one. So tag and trade him , for the work we put in.

  • Cornerss

    @ChuckCroneberger and odrick was a dt. Same with wake, he was a de in college. Most of our defense are hybrid players. Smith and bell might as well be lb’s

  • Lespaul

    Starks at nose tackle…hmm. Those named players would make a solid run stopping front 4. Solitai could be traded to the Texans or to Pittsburg. Would be cool to get some draft choices for that guy.

  • ChrisLeeuw

    @Cornerss Problem with a tag, is once again it would take up $14-15 million in cap space. Our hands would be tied in free agency.

  • bchapman02011

    Good article……Solai is good as gone and with Miami switching to a 4-3 the majority of the time the NT position will not be as critical. The author mentions that the Solai contract will be north of 30 million but I would be willing to bet that his contract will be in the 50-60 million range with 20 guaranteed. Miami will be in good shape if they can get their QB in free agency. That way we can use the entire draft to fill all of our holes affordably.

  • Txmedic5

    @chriscce yes. I prefer Upshaw at OLB